You should consider using these often. If you’re writing an essay or giving a presentation, try to contact an expert - a professor that teaches the topic at a respectable institution, a journalist who covers it, or a person working in that field. Often if you plan ahead, you can email these people and get them to answer questions. Plus, they’re easy to reference!
Interviews can add a great deal to your essay, project, or presentation. They provide timely information, give you condensed opinions that might be hard to find, and can back up or contradict what you’re seeing in the literature around your topic. They can also add a useful amount of humanity or emotion. If your topic is human trafficking, writing about what you read in an Atlantic article is great, but interviewing a former victim, trafficker, or ranking police officer who works in that area will provide you with great information and make for a more interesting read. Also, many professors will respect that you took the effort and it will make your assignment stand out from others in the class, since few think to do this.
1. Make sure the person you interview is worth interviewing. They should be respected in their field, and your professor should be able to confirm that they’re an actual person. Don’t interview your friend Chad unless he happens to be a genuine expert in the area you’re discussing.
2. Tell them you’re a student and describe the format of your assignment (essay, presentation, etc.) up front.
3. Plan ahead. Contact them early and give them time to respond. Have a back-up plan if they don’t.
4. Once they agree to be interviewed, if it’s possible, provide questions in advance. If there are things they don’t want to discuss, do not pressure them.
5. Don’t argue with them. They’re the expert and you sought out their opinion. If you disagree with them, that’s between you and your paper.
6. Be polite and professional.